Georgetown Pioneers Arabic Language Initiative for “Heritage Learners”

Professor Abbas Al-Tonsi, one of the leaders of the "Heritage Learners" program. (Photo: Business Wi ...

DOHA, Qatar--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) launched a groundbreaking Arabic-language teaching program aimed at students from an Arab background - known as “Heritage Learners” - to prepare them for optimal performance in Arabic-speaking professions.

Professor Abbas Al-Tonsi, one of the leaders of the "Heritage Learners" program. (Photo: Business Wire)

“This initiative will break new ground in the development and delivery of Arabic-language tuition for the benefit of our students at SFS-Q and, ultimately, all of Qatar and the region,” said Dr. Gerd Nonneman, dean of SFS-Q.

Georgetown will lead program development, in collaboration with Northwestern University in Qatar and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, to serve both their students and others in Education City and beyond.

“This new initiative will address two groups of students of Arabic. The first group comprises the ‘heritage learners’ who often find it difficult to learn their own language at advanced stages because of a lack of instructional materials that cater to their specific needs. The second group is that of native speakers who require new material from that found in Arab universities, which mimic the curriculum of the secondary level. Courses for these students are equivalent to courses such as ‘English for Special Purposes’ or ‘Professional English’,” explained Nonneman.

The program starts now for SFS-Q students, amidst concerns about the effectiveness of Arabic-language instruction in Qatar and the Gulf region, especially in light of the limited ability of many Arab high-school and even university graduates to function at the highest professional level in Arabic.

“Because our existing Arabic program offered the most variety of courses at Education City, and our faculty has just completed a major study on the subject of ‘heritage learners’, and has introduced targeted teaching for these two categories last year, Georgetown has comparative advantage in taking this new initiative forward,” says Dr. Nonneman. “We very much see this as a collaborative effort with our colleagues at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).”

In a recently study on Arabic taught in Doha’s schools, led by Professor Abbas Al-Tonsi, who is one of the leaders of the new program, it was found that the level of education in standard Arabic amongst students was three years below their age level. Professor Al-Tonsi notes, “The new initiative will enable a student of business to continue learning about his or her major but also expand the ability to read and write in the clearest Arabic. The same holds true for a media student or a political science student. They will then know business, or media, or political science not just in English, but also in Arabic.”

Founded in 1789, Georgetown University offers highly ranked undergraduate, graduate and professional programs for the next generation of global citizens. Founded in 1919, the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) is a premier school of international affairs. At Georgetown’s Washington, D.C. and Doha, Qatar campuses, SFS provides a rigorous education combining theory and practice.

*Source: ME NewsWire

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Waleed Khan

Source: Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar